Understanding Healthy & Unhealthy Fats

Fats are essential for normal body function, some fats are better for you than others. Fat is a major source of energy and aids your body in absorbing vitamins. It’s important for proper growth, development and keeping you healthy. Fat provides taste to foods and helps you feel full. Fats are an especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers. Dietary fat also plays a major role in your cholesterol levels. But if you need more information you can read bookmaker reviews branding.

Fat is an important part of cell membranes, helping govern what gets into cells and what comes out. The body uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and other vital compounds. Fats can also influence how muscles respond to insulin’s “open up for sugar” signal; different types of fats can also fire up or cool down inflammation.

Healthy Dietary Fats:
There are numerous types of fat. Your body makes its own fat from taking in excess calories. Some fats are found in foods from plants and animals and are known as dietary fat. Dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients, along with protein and carbohydrates, that provide energy for your body. The types of fat in the diet determine to a large extent the amount of total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. The types and amount of carbohydrate in the diet also play a role. Cholesterol in food matters, too, but not nearly as much.

Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are liquids at room temperature.

Here are two types of unsaturated fats:

Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in olive, peanut, and canola oils; avocados; nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and also in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and fish; canola oil, though higher in monounsaturated fat, is also a good source of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fats, which are fast becoming the darling of the supplement industry, are an important type of polyunsaturated fat. The body can’t make these, so they must come from food. An excellent way to get omega-3 fats is by eating fish two or three times a week. Good plant sources of omega-3 fats include chia seeds (sold as Salvia), flax seeds, walnuts, and oils such as flaxseed, canola, and soybean.

RECOMMENDED TOTAL DIETARY FAT: Your dietary fat percentage range changes as you age. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, children ages 1 to 3 should make fat about 30 to 40 percent of their total calories, children and teens 4 to 18 should get 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat, and adults 19 and older can make fat 20 to 35 percent of their total calories. This translates to a wide range of fat calories for each person. For instance, if you are an adult eating an average 2,000-calorie diet per day, you can get about 50 to 70 g of total fat per day. Your doctor may recommend that you lower your intake to 20 percent if you’re trying to lose weight or increase it to 35 percent if you’re highly active.

 

WHAT ARE UNHEALTHY DIETARY FATS?

Saturated Fats are considered unhealthy fats because they could be detrimental to your cholesterol and your heart. Saturated fats are found in animal products and processed foods, such as meats (fatty beef, lamb pork, poultry with poultry skin, beef fat), dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat 2% Milk, butter, cheese, lard and cream,  chips, and pastries.

Saturated fats are not heart healthy, since they are most known for raising your LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood.  High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Be aware, too, that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher.

Trans Fats are considered unhealthy fats as well. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise LDL “bad” cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. But unlike saturated fats, trans fats lower HDL “good” cholesterol and may do more damage, says the American Heart Association (AHA). A recent article on WebMd states it simply, “Trans fatty foods tantalize your taste buds, then travel through your digestive system to your arteries, where they turn to sludge.”

Most trans fats are made during food processing through partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. This process creates fats that are easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than are naturally occurring oils. Trans fats are found in vegetable shortenings, some margarine, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

As of Jan. 1, 2006, food manufacturers have been required by the FDA to list trans fats on food labels.

Today you can buy cookies and soft-spread margarine with zero trans fats. But trans fats still exist in some products. Carefully read nutrition labels on foods in these categories. Chose brands that don’t use trans fats and are low in saturated fat in these products:

  • cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
  • some stick margarine and vegetable shortening
  • pre-mixed cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
  • fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn
  • frozen dinners

 

QUICK TIP:  Choose foods with healthy fats and limit foods that are high in saturated fat, and AVOIDING trans fat.  Here are a few things you can do:

• Eliminate trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils. Food labels should say “0” (zero) on the line for trans fat; also scan the ingredient list to make sure it does not contain partially hydrogenated oils.  In restaurants, steer clear of fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods, unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans fat (many already have).

• Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods. Try replacing red meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible, and switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower fat versions, or just eating smaller amounts of full-fat dairy products, such as cheese.

• In place of butter, use liquid vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, in cooking and at the table. Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and the like are great sources of healthy fat.

• Eat one or more good sources of omega-3 fats every day. Fish, walnuts, canola or soybean oil, ground flax seeds or flaxseed oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fats. As you choose foods with healthy fat, and limit the amount of trans and saturated fats in your diet, you will help lower your heart disease risk.


Check out these resources:

Visit www.mayoclinic.com, www.livestrong.com, www.webmd.com, and www.heart.org for additional information.

 

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-Eric & Maleka Beal

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